1975 Spa Grand Prix

Classic Racer - - WHAT'S INSIDE -

The ups and downs con­tin­ued for Barry Sheene and a fair pro­por­tion of the grid at Spa. What started out as a race amongst equals turned into a war of at­tri­tion. In­clud­ing a par­tic­u­larly hairy seize-up at 180mph!

Win­ning his first 500GP just a week ear­lier, Barry Sheene must have thought he could do it all again at the su­per­fast Bel­gian Grand Prix at Spa-fran­cor­champs. ‘Bazza’ did break the lap record in prac­tice and looked on for an­other win on the works Suzuki-4. But things of­ten have a way of un­rav­el­ling in GP rac­ing...

Right from the start of the race it was the two fast MVS that got away with sec­onds in hand over the chas­ing pack. In­deed, by the end of that first lap it was the Ital­ian Gian­franco Bon­era and our own Phil Read who were both mak­ing se­ri­ous head­way from the chas­ing pack of Barry Sheene, Gi­a­como Agos­tini – on a mod­i­fied Yamaha 0W23 – and 22-year-old John New­bold, on a Suzuki-gb bike. There ap­peared lit­tle that any­one in the chas­ing pack could do about the quick-start­ing Ital­ian ma­chines and by lap four Sheene was a full eight sec­onds be­hind the two lead­ing bikes. Sheene refused to roll over though, and over the next three laps at Spa he found his form on the Suzuki, edg­ing back Read and Bon­era bit by bit un­til man­ag­ing to pass the pair on lap eight. It was a bril­liant scrap back to the front of the race. But the ela­tion for Sheene was im­me­di­ately coun­tered by dis­ap­point­ment for Ago. Gi­a­como pulled into the pits at the same time, the mod­i­fied Yamaha clearly not yet ready – at this weekend at least – to be pushed hard enough in the hands of the su­per­star who was look­ing to re­gain the ti­tle. The grem­lins struck else­where, with Agos­tini fol­lowed into the pits by Bon­era and his miss­ing MV. Mean­while, Tepi Län­sivuori’s works Suzuki seized again (it had al­ready nipped up four times in prac­tice – a dire time for Tepi). Jack Find­lay, who had a great race through the pack, scrap­ping his way up from

sev­enth place to fourth, also found him­self hav­ing to pit, al­though this was for fuel but thank­fully his team were rapid in get­ting the gas in the bike and he man­aged to get topped up and get back out into the race still in fourth place. Amaz­ing. The fa­mil­iar lead­ing duo of Read and Sheene were play­ing cat-and-mouse all over the cir­cuit. With two laps to go Barry was set­ting up for a sim­i­lar game plan to what landed him the win the week be­fore at Assen: sit in Read’s wheel­tracks and pop him to the line. Un­for­tu­nately, Barry’s bike seized at the ul­tra-fast Masta Straight at 180mph. Some­how Sheene kept it all up­right, catch­ing the bike on the clutch and – with the big Day­tona accident still in his mind – he took the op­tion of cruis­ing back to the pad­dock in one piece rather than spread­ing him­self across Fran­cor­champs’ finest Tar­mac. This time it wasn’t the usual gear­box is­sues that caused the nip-up (as many sus­pected) but a bolt-on that was part of the drive gear that had sheared. Read was the happy win­ner and leader of the cham­pi­onship as he crossed the line, now 11 points ahead in the stand­ings over sec­ond placed Agos­tini.the young New­bold fin­ished a great sec­ond in the race on the Suzuki GB-4, while vet­eran Find­lay came fourth on a Yamaha ahead of Scots­man Alex George, who passed John Williams in the last lap – four Brits in the first five!

There was an 11min de­lay at the start of event num­ber four – the 500cc race and then all hell broke loose. More than 100,000 spec­ta­tors came to see the Bel­gian GP in 1975.They were all over the place, on the pits, bill­boards, car roofs, trees etc. The race was one of four in the GP se­ries held on pub­lic roads that year. With 30 rid­ers at the start, Gian­franco Bon­era, on the MV Agusta, took the lead ahead of Mick Grant on the Kawasaki, König rider Horst Lah­feld and Vic­tor Palomo and Gi­a­como Agos­tini, both on Yama­has.

The first right-han­der just af­ter the start: #4 Gian­franco Bon­era, IT, MV; #88 Mick Grant, GB, Kawasaki; #36 Horst Lah­feld, DE, König; #54 Vic­tor Palomo, Es,yamaha; #8 Gi­a­como Agos­tini, It,yamaha; #2 Phil Read, GB, MV; #14 Di­eter Braun, Ge,yamaha; #18 John Williams, Gb,yamaha; #80 Bernard Fau, FR, Yamaha; #12 Barry Sheene, GB, Suzuki; #20 Horst Kass­ner, Ge,yamaha; #52 Nico van der Zande, Nl,yamaha; #50 Pa­trick Pons, Fr,yamaha; #6 Teuvo Län­sivuori, SF, Suzuki; #78 Olivier Che­va­lier, FR, Yamaha; #10 Jack Find­lay, AUS, Yamaha; #22 Alan North, Sa,yamaha; #59 Pentti Korho­nen, SF, Yamaha; #60 Paolo Pi­leri, It,yamaha; #28 Thierry Tch­er­nine, Fr,yamaha and #46 Alex George, Scot, Yamaha.

A fish-eye-lens view of the ter­race of Ho­tel La Source that was al­most sit­u­ated on the track at the hair­pin be­fore start and fin­ish. What a place to be!

It was a hot day and many looked for some re­fresh­ment near the ’Eau Rouge’ that streamed un­der­neath the cir­cuit just af­ter the start. It was also one of the il­le­gal ways to en­ter the pad­dock. The Ho­tel Eau Rouge was next to the pad­dock and a favourite place to play bil­liards for many rid­ers.

Above: Be­tween races, stranded rid­ers were picked up by car and due to the high num­ber of them they were even trans­ported in the back of it. On the pic­ture are some 125 rid­ers, among them Swiss Hans Müller and Aus­trian Ru­dolf Weiss.

Be­low: The medics of the Con­ti­nen­tal Circus on their way to a crashed rider.

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